“It’s making kids sick”: Pediatricians say COVID Delta variant sending more children to the hospital

ORLANDO, Fla. — Pediatricians at two Central Florida hospitals say the COVID-19 Delta variant is making some completely healthy children very sick.

According to a pediatrician at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, one child died of complications from COVID-19 there last week, and another is currently on a ventilator.

“Unlike early in the pandemic, when the virus didn’t seem to do much in kids, now it’s making kids sick,” Dr. Kenneth Alexander said.

READ: 38% of eligible Florida kids have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, data shows

Alexander is the Chief of the infectious diseases division at Nemours. He says the number of kids being admitted with COVID-19 to all Central Florida hospitals is going up.

As of Friday, Arnold Palmer Hospital had eight children admitted with one in the intensive care unit. Nemours reported seven with two in the ICU, including the one on a ventilator.

“The youngest patient who’s in our hospital right now on a ventilator has no particular risk factors,” Dr. Alexander said. “The child that died had some complex underlying medical problems.”

According to Dr. Vincent Hsu of AdventHealth, as of Monday, they had 20 COVID-19 patients under the age of 18. He said that appeared to be higher than in previous weeks.

However, AdventHealth says it will no longer provide updates on how many children they have admitted with COVID-19. The hospital didn’t explain why it made that decision.

READ: Florida doctors, teachers call on Gov. DeSantis to reverse order blocking COVID mandates in schools

The Central Florida Disaster Medical Coalition pulls information from Health and Human Services to share daily statewide updates with hospitals and emergency managers.

Its most recent report- obtained by WFTV- shows 143 children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, an increase from the previous day.

There are also more than 12,000 adults hospitalized in Florida and 39 hospitals reporting critical staffing shortages, according to the report.

The only category in which the report showed improvement from one day to the next was the total number of hospital beds in use in the state, at 84 percent. However, it also shows more than 88 percent of ICU beds are being used.

Dr. Alexander says he hopes the data will serve as a reminder for people to get vaccinated and wear a mask, especially parents who are preparing to send their kids back to school.

READ: Orange County schools to require face masks for students unless parents provide note opting out

“This idea that you’re safer without a mask is tantamount to saying you’re safer driving down the highway without a seatbelt and airbags,” Dr. Alexander said. “There’s no justification for this whatsoever.”

According to Dr. Alexander, of all the kids being admitted to Nemours for things other than COVID-19, approximately 25 percent of them still test positive for the virus.

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